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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 Digital Camera (6/2007)
by Douglas Dixon
After seeing the latest generation of digital cameras with cool features like image stabilization and face detection, I finally pulled the trigger and bought myself a new camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100.
You may have other criteria, but I was looking for a slim and light take-it-almost-anywhere camera with automatic point-and-shoot modes, plus these new features to try to avoid screwing up quick photos, plus some ability to override and customize in difficult shooting situations.
And I was willing to make some other tradeoffs -- the reduced size and weight rule out having an optical viewfinder, so a larger LCD display becomes important, especially for older eyes. And as the design runs out of room for dedicated controls and buttons, I'm willing to rely more on changing settings using the menus on that larger display.
The T100 hits my sweet spot -- 8 megapixels of resolution, 5X optical zoom lens, and a nice big 3-inch diagonal LCD, squeezed into a rectangular body that's only 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9 inches and 6.1 ounces (loaded with battery), and available for under $399.
This is a nice clean pocketable design -- The front cover slides down to expose the lens, which does not protrude from the camera -- it's all done with optics and mirrors folded into the body. The result is a wonderfully portable device that is quite unobtrusive to use, especially in the available black finish (as compared to the other options of silver and red).
The T100 also has some nice features like exposure bracketing (take three quick pictures with +/- exposure), extra close-up Macro mode (closer than 3 1/2 inches), VGA-res movies with optical zoom available, and a variety of modes to help when photographic people, and in difficult low-light situations.
Look up the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 digital camera on Amazon.com.
The Sony DSC-T100 uses Sony's tiny Memory Stick Duo media or Memory Stick
The highest resolution 8 MP photos are 3264 x 2448 resolution, which compress to around 2 to 2.5 MB per JPEG file. You therefore can fit some 300 to 500 images on a 1 GB memory card, which relieves the worry about running out of storage.
Although if you want to fill up space, the T100 also shoots up to 640 x 480 MPEG movies with sound at 30 frames per second, and a 10-second movie uses around 3.8 MB. You also can zoom while shooting video.
The memory slot and Lithium-ion battery are installed in one side of the camera under a sliding cover. The product comes with a handy battery charger; full charge time is up to 6 hours. Or you can get a spare NP-BG1 battery for $49. Sony rates the battery at up to 380 shots on a full charge.
The only other slot on the T100 is the multi-terminal on the bottom. This attaches to a multi-part cable with the multi-use connector at one end, and a USB connector plus analog Audio/Video connectors at the other. That's a non-trivial collection of cabling to carry on a trip, although the alterative is to carry a USB reader for a Memory Stick.
If you want to charge the camera directly, you need the AC-LS5K Portable AC Adapter ($39), plus a replacement VMC-MD1 Multi-use Terminal Cable ($39) that adds a fourth DC jack to the multi-connector cable collection. Yeesh! What happened to USB for data transfer and charging?
What was most interesting about getting used to the Sony DSC-T100 was the way the interface was almost -- but not quite -- clear enough to learn without needing help from the manual. Even our consultant digital-friendly young person needed some prompting.
The issue is the way this design deals with the traditional mode dial that is commonly found on digital cameras and camcorders, which typically combines Power off and on, with Camera mode to take new shots and Play to view stored shots, and even camera modes such as Still vs. Movie.
Since there really isn't room for a big dial and associated text or icons, the T100 breaks these out into separate buttons that take a bit of getting used to. The main controls are clustered along the right side of the back, along and then extending above the LCD display.
On the top, there's a Power button (marked "Power"). This is somewhat redundant since the camera turns on when you slide open the lens -- although it is useful to use to review your stored photos with the lens closed, and to power up after the camera has automatically turned itself off to save power.
Next to Power is a Play button marked with an arrow symbol (but no text), like the play control on a VCR. This is dedicated to switching between shooting and playback modes (what some devices call Camera and Play).
Also at the top right is the Zoom rocker switch, which controls the 5X optical zoom from Wide-angle to Telephoto. The Zoom also is useful when viewing stored photos: Press W to display an index screen of photo thumbnails (at two different resolutions), and then use the switch to zoom into a picture to check focus and whether anyone has their eyes closed. The T100 also offers a digital zoom feature (which degrades the image), and a Smart Zoom feature that enlarges by using more of the image sensor (if shooting at less than 8 MP).
Clustered on the right bottom of the back is the Control button for menu navigation, with four directions plus a center select button. Above it is a "Menu" button, which seems clear, and below is a "Home" button, which causes the confusion.
The key concept, which only needs to be explained once, is that the Home
button selects the main shooting mode:
The Home button also provides access to other options, including viewing slide shows, printing, memory management, and other general camera settings (but not the Menu settings for shooting and playback modes).
The Menu button then provides access to options for shooting and viewing / playback modes. The available options depend on the Home shooting mode (i.e., face detection is not available in Program Auto), and also on the specific Scene Selection mode.
The menu interface is straightforward to navigate with the Control button. The choices are displayed as graphical icons, with the text name displayed for the current sub-menu, and both the text name and a descriptive phrase displayed for the currently selected item.
The Control button also doubles as a dedicated control for four common shooting options:
For the flash, the T100 strobes the flash twice, with the first time to adjust the light level. This can have the side effect of forcing people to squint when you take flash photos from a short distance away. The T100 also has an AF Illuminator, a red fill light that helps the auto focus in dark scenes. However, this is a very bright light, and irritating to subjects when taking close photos.
For the Macro modes, the T100 has two close-up modes. The regular Macro mode (flower icon) is rated to focus at 31 1/2 inches when zoomed in full, or down to 3 1/2 inches at wide angle. The Close Focus mode (magnifying glass icon) locks the optical zoom at wide angle and lets you come in even closer than the 3 1/2 inches.
The Home button accesses four main groups of general settings:
Shooting mode (discussed above)
View Images (shortcuts for Play modes)
Manage Memory (Internal memory and Memory Stick)
The Menu button provides the following settings when in shooting mode. The available options depend on the Home shooting mode (i.e., face detection is not available in Program Auto), and also on the specific Scene Selection mode.
- Scene Selection (see Home)
The Menu button provides the following settings when in playback / picture viewing mode.
- Delete: Single, Multiple, All images in folder
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T100 at Sony Style